A curious aspect I’ve noticed over the years with nonfiction writing and broadcasting – newspapers, radio, magazines and books – is what information comes to you after publication or broadcast.
The Importance of Validating Sources
Time after time, I would write an article or a book about a subject, including the best of my reporting and research, only to learn after what I had missed. I would get a phone call or email or even a letter from people saying, “But did you know about this or that?” Often, it was a fact or anecdote that I didn’t know about. And because this information came to me after publication, I was not able to use it unless I did a follow-up story.
My nightmare was that I had gotten something major wrong, often too late to do anything about it.
On the other hand, to my relief, there were times when someone I hadn’t contacted for a story would reach out and confirm that I had gotten something right.
A Personal Account from Joy Jackson
I was reminded of that a number of weeks after we had locked down the galleys for Drifting Into Darkness: Murders, Madness, Suicide and a Death “Under Suspicious Circumstances.” I got several DMs from Joy Jackson, someone I didn’t know, who had been waiting for the book to come out. She told me that she had been a neighbor of Brent Springford Jr. (who she referred to by his legal name, “Winston”) and Caroline Scoutt in Colorado around the time that Brent went to Montgomery, Alabama, on Thanksgiving weekend of 2004 and beat his parents to death with an ax handle. Jackson wrote me, regarding Brent’s mistreatment at Caroline’s hands:
“Winston and Caroline lived in our neighborhood in Windsor, Colorado. Many strange things happened in that neighborhood during that time, so I am anxious to see what happened…
I would see that beautiful young man [Brent, Jr.] working his butt off in the hot sun, the black of night….always running. Digging post holes by hand, carrying fence posts on his shoulders, running down the lane. We never got to speak to him but she came over to introduce herself and her girls.”
I was relieved to read this, as I have covered this period of the story in detail and in a way that supports and amplifies Jackson’s recollection. For a journalist or author, this sort of validation is rewarding.
Don’t miss my recent podcast interview about Drifting into Darkness with The Minds of Madness.
Join me for a free virtual event with Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe on Wednesday, April 6th at 6 p.m. EST. I hope to see you there!